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Executive order may create RI’s health insurance exchange

July 8, 2011

So, the RI General Assembly didn’t pass what was supposed to be an easy sell- legislation to create a “public corporation” to design an online marketplace for buying health insurance.

Seems pretty tame, right?  The bill originally had wide spread support, until lawmakers added an amendment to limit the availability of abortion coverage.  The legislation passed in the Senate, but never made it past that hurdle.

So, what does RI do now? The nation’s health care overhaul requires all states to offer a health insurance exchange by 2014 and Rhode Island needs to get moving.

According to Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts, the Ocean State won’t qualify for another round of federal funding for the exchange unless it establishes a governing structure by September.  That’s not enough time to wait for next year’s legislative session.

So, Roberts and her colleagues are looking at other methods for getting this exchange moving forward. Today, she’s meeting with the Executive Committee of the Health Reform Commission to discuss the state’s options. Among them, having the governor issue an executive order to create a group charged with designing the exchange.

We’ve got lawyers looking at that right now.  We found language in state law that would appear to give the governor the authority to create something quite similar to the structure we were looking for through legislation.

Elizabeth Roberts says this version will not address the issue of abortion.

The goal here was to take our current insurance structure and our current medicaid program and create an online interface for those. This is an infrastructure bill  not a policy bill. It got caught in a policy argument. So I think what you’ll see moving forward is the infrastructure piece which is just as we initially planned it to be.

Roberts says she hopes to have an executive order on the health insurance exchange ready within the next three to four weeks.

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